Established in 1960, the Wills Eye Retina Service is the oldest vitreoretinal surgery fellowship in the United States and has been instrumental in training almost 200 retinal fellows in the diagnosis and management of retinal and vitreous diseases. The chief goal of the Fellowship is to develop excellence in the medical and surgical care of the retina and vitreous, foster academic research, and develop future leaders in the field of vitreoretinal surgery. Former fellows are program directors, tenured professors, academic researchers and thought leaders. They are in practice in all parts of the United States and Canada, as well as in Puerto Rico, South America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
The Wills Retina Fellowship combines surgical duties with clinical and academic responsibilities in a two-year combined medical/surgical fellowship. The Fellowship is led by Dr. Arunan Sivalingam (fellowship director) and Dr. Richard Kaiser (co-fellowship director). All clinical and surgical activities for the fellows are located at the Wills Eye Hospital. Fellows are the primary providers staffing Wills Retina Service and provide retina consult services for the Wills Eye Emergency Room and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. Fellows are closely mentored by the Wills Eye Hospital/Mid Atlantic Retina faculty in their medical and surgical training. The breadth of pathology and richness of clinical, procedural and surgical training is unparalleled. Upon graduation, fellows are well prepared for any facility of practice.
The Wills Retina Fellowship is accredited by the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology (AUPO) and meets guidelines set forth by the AUPO fellowship compliance committee. In order to apply, please go to www.sfmatch.org.
All applications come thru The SF Match, and the application process opens on July 1, 2023. All applicants are encouraged to submit a completed application as early as possible. Applications will not be accepted after August 15, 2023. The 2023 fellowship interview process will consist of a dinner on Friday, October 27, 2023 with interviews on Saturday, October 28, 2023. Commitments to both dates are mandatory.
Once the SF Match application has been submitted, the required additional documentation listed below should be sent to Wills Eye Hospital to complete the application. These items can either be emailed or mailed to the Fellowship Coordinator.
- Medical School Transcript
- USMLE scores (all THREE parts)
- Curriculum Vitae
- Digital Photo
Please address any correspondence to:
Arunan Sivalingam, MD
c/o Peggy Semen
Wills Eye Retina Service
840 Walnut Street, Suite 1020
Philadelphia, PA 19107-5109
The fellowship begins in early July each year and is completed two years later. There are four fellow slots for the 2024-2026 Fellowship year. Scheduled hospital obligations generally extend from 7am - 5pm daily. Fellows have three weeks of vacation in each year of the fellowship.
The first year of the fellowship program is primarily focused on mastering medical retina and developing the fundamentals of surgical retina. The year is divided into four rotations which rotate between the fellows every week: the Wills Retina Service clinic, Private clinic and Float. First-year fellows are primarily responsible for the Wills Retina Service clinic which sees all retina and uveitis patients within the integrated vertical services at Wills Eye Hospital. The clinic sees over 4,500 patients per year. Fellows become comfortable in performing office-based procedures including focal and panretinal photocoagulation, laser retinopexy, intravitreal injections and pneumatic retinopexy. Attending supervision and guidance is available for every patient encounter. Fellows additionally rotate in the private clinic working with each Wills Eye Hospital/Mid Atlantic Retina faculty member. Every attending has a scheduled clinic at Wills Eye Hospital on a weekly or biweekly basis. The Float retina fellow typically splits their time staffing the Retina Service clinic and performing surgery in the operating room. First-year fellows also join in the clinics of Drs. Jerry and Carol Shields in ocular oncology as well as with the pediatric ophthalmologists and retina specialists for retinopathy of prematurity screening and treatment. Fellows work closely with the Wills residents and are involved in their clinical education.
The second year of the fellowship program is directed towards learning the intricacies of surgical retina. The second year is an intensive and immersive surgical curriculum where fellows operate on surgical cases five days a week. Post-operative patients are seen in a half day clinic once a week. With one-on-one surgical surgical mentorship, the transfer of skills and surgical experience proceeds in an efficient manner leading to comfort in a wide range of vitreoretinal procedures. Fellows gain familiarity with surgical instrumentation including 23, 25 or 27G vitrectomy, Alcon and B&L vitrectomy devices, intraoperative OCT and scleral buckling, Given the large number of vitreoretinal surgeons on staff from a variety of backgrounds, fellows are exposed diverse surgical management styles. In addition to real time feedback, second year fellows present complex surgical cases in a monthly surgical conference.
Fellows present interesting retina and uveitis cases during a weekly Imaging Conference that is precepted by the Retina, Uveitis and Oncology faculty. Cases are selected by the fellows to highlight interesting multimodal imaging, diagnostic workup, surgical management, or other aspects. The cases are recorded and broadcast to a national audience via the ASRS.
Surgical conferences are held monthly to share interesting surgical cases selected by the fellow. The meeting is attended by the surgical faculty and provides an opportunity for fellows to seek advice and gain new perspectives on surgical techniques. The diversity of surgical faculty exposes fellows to a wide range of practice patterns.
Medical Retina/Uveitis Conference
A medical retina/uveitis conference is held with the first-year fellows on Mondays and is led by Drs. Carl Regillo and JP Dunn. The session is designed to educate fellows on clinical management of common retinal disorders and to discuss complex cases encountered in clinic.
Oncology conferences are held on alternating Mondays with Dr. Carol Shields where oncologic cases are discussed. In addition, fellows see patients in the oncology clinic on select Mondays.
Grand Rounds are led by the Wills residents and held Friday mornings with fellow involvement when retina cases are presented.
Academic research is highly encouraged in the Wills Retina Fellowship. Fellows have the opportunity to present their research at national conferences including AAO, ASRS, ARVO, Retina Society or any other conference of the fellows choosing. Monthly research meetings are held to discuss the status of on-going projects and generate future project ideas. Research meetings are led by Drs. Allen Ho (Director of Retina Research), Jason Hsu (Co-Director of Retina Research) and Sunir Garg (Co-Director of Retina Research).
Wills Eye Hospital hosts numerous phase I, II and III multi-center clinical trials. Fellows participate in all multi-center trials, serving as sub-investigators where they perform screening visits, intravitreal injections and/or other procedures as part of the study protocol, and serve as the masked or unmasked investigator.
First- and second-year fellows jointly share call and determine the schedule. Weekday call (Monday through Thursday) is split such that each fellow is on call once every 6 days. Similarly, weekend call (Friday through Sunday) is split such that each fellow is on call once every 6 weekends. Each fellow also rotates Saturday morning rounding on post-operative patients once every six Saturdays. The first call day for incoming fellows starts on September 1.
Fellows may take up to 3 weeks of vacation per year with 1 week being taken during either the week of Christmas or New Year's Day. Academic days are allowed for conferences in which the fellow is presenting a paper or poster and for job interviews.
Arunan Sivalingam graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in 1981, received his medical degree from Rutgers Medical School. He completed both residency and vitreoretinal surgery fellowship at Wills Eye Hospital. He currently serves as the Co-Director of the Retina Service and has been the Director of the Retina Fellowship for the past 16 years.
Richard Kaiser is a Philadelphia native and completed his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his medical degree from New York University School of Medicine. He completed ophthalmology residency at the University of Pennsylvania Scheie Eye Institute and fellowship at William Beaumont Hospital. Dr. Kaiser has served as Co-Director of the Retina Fellowship for the past seven years.